Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The New Suck

So, there is a lot of current pop music that I just don't like. That's just the way it is. I am pretty much bewildered by the popularity of most of the current musical trends, and I don't anticipate this changing. One in particular, though, is especially horrible, and that's the musical idiom occupied by such artists as Nickelback, Daughtry and Hinder.

It's taken me a long time to put words to why I find these particular artists so offensive, and why their particular brand of rock just doesn't work, period. First, we must acknowledge that the production on these records pretty much subtracts any hope of the music having any life to it at all, but that's true of the production on almost any mainstream rock record these days. Having gotten that out of the way, the horrible nature of this musical subgenre boils down to two key components:

1) These artists miss the 80's. They miss when rock was flashy, rude, uncomplicated. The 80's hair metal bands had all this going for them (technically challenging guitar solos paired with the dumbest of riffs, and the dumbest of lyrics). Part of their aesthetic is derived from the desire to make dumb rock again.

2) Having come of age in the 90's, however, these artists are of an era where rock bands were TAKEN SERIOUSLY. They want to be treated with the same sort of respect that, say, Nirvana was treated with. Therefore, they are EXTREMELY SERIOUS.

So what does this leave us with? The worst of both worlds. If any of us can say anything positive about 80's butt rock, it's that it was fun. It still is. It was so bad that it was good. You can't ignore the ridiculous hair, clothing, etc. It made that music something fun to remember, and something fun to interact with at the time. So why on earth would we want something that resembled that style musically but without any of the elements that made it so fun in the first place? Add to that the "uber-serious" attitude of 90's grunge, and you have a recipe for musical misery. There is nothing worse than someone making crappy, unimaginative music that is not willing to give an inch in the "serious" category. It just makes the whole thing taste like ass. If you want an egregious example, take for instance Nickelback's cover of "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting" by Elton John. Now, Elton John's version of this song is fantastically fun. It was designed to be. Nickelback's, on the other hand, is boring, ugly, UBER-SERIOUS SOUNDING and absolutely no fun at all. The combination of an 80's musical aesthetic with a 90's desire to be taken deadly serious is like making a reality TV show that resembles SAW-esque torture porn flicks; disgusting, horrible and conscience-less.

More posts to come soon. I've been trying to get out of day job land, and tomorrow is my last shift. I've got at least two or three on the docket that I want to write. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Not Feelin' It

So, there have always been times where certain records that I obtained didn't really grab me, and I'm going to post a few of those tonight under the heading of "Not Feelin' It."


Man, do I love the first record by these guys, "Hillside".  Fantastic record.  "Bahama" is their second full-length, and it has a similar vibe to the first one, but I'm not sure the songwriting is as strong.  I'm going to give it another shot, maybe here in a few more weeks when I'm ready for something more chilled out.  Too ready to rock right now.

The Roots-Rising Down

I must not really be in a hip-hop space at the moment, or a "new" hip-hop space.  I'm rocking all the classic stuff that I really love like there's no tomorrow, but I don't have the patience to get to know a new hip-hop record right now.  I liked the last Roots record ("Game Theory") quite a bit, and this one feels similar in many ways, but I'm just not in the right space for it.  Off the iPod it goes for now.

My Morning Jacket-Evil Urges

Okay, so I haven't bought this one.  I haven't bought it because I've heard it enough times in the store where I work (though only for 10 more days) to know that I just don't want it.  How could they have gone so wrong after such a great record like "Z"?  "Z" had it all--great hooks, great songs, diverse feel, and it was seriously rockin', all without sacrificing a bit of integrity.  This, on the other hand, throws integrity out the window.  I don't really understand what they were thinking.  Not feelin' it.  Not at all.

I'll try and get to a record report where I have something positive to say some time soon.  I'm also preparing a two part blog on the subject of my iPod and its positives and negatives.  We shall see if I can get it together.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Record Report, 8/8/08

Peter Breslin-Duology 1
BettySoo-Little Tiny Secrets


I've had this record for a while, but not too long. About five months or so. It has been really difficult for me to get past the brilliance of the second track, "Atlas", and give any of the rest of it the attention it deserves. I mean, "Atlas" has to be one of the most fantastic pieces of music I've heard in a long time. I feel about it the way I felt about "Paranoid Android" for a good while. It just works so well, and yet you are totally bewildered about how it might have been assembled/composed. This album is really difficult to describe...There's a post-punk-ish element to it, and a prog element, but that really shortchanges what the music is.

Most inspiring about this record is the idea that records like this are still possible...that I can sit here and try and convey to you what it's like, but it's so unique that any effort is insufficient. Please go listen to this record, because it is certainly a record that deserves to be listened to by people who enjoy challenging and innovative music.

Peter Breslin-Duology 1

I have only listened to this once (my ambitions for the weekly record report are slowly but surely becoming overly ambitious...I don't feel like I've been able to give any of the five records for this week sufficient attention). It is a recording from 2007, a live concert where Peter brought in six other musicians, and performed improvised duets with them. The order they occurred in was determined by chance (names pulled out of a hat, to be exact): Mark Weaver on tuba, Ruth Zaporah on spoken vocals, Chris Jonas on saxophone, Jeremy Bleich on percussion and oud (a middle eastern stringed instrument), Paul Brown on double bass, and Mike Rowland on drum set. Peter played piano on all selections.

Like I said in the previous entry, I've always had an interest in what might be called "avant-garde". I don't really believe in that distinction...Music is music, whether composed or improvised, whether "folk" or "art"...I think distinctions such as these ultimately are meaningless. Do I think that there was a certain magic to these improvisations that would only be experienced by hearing them live? Perhaps, but that doesn't mean that there's not real musical interaction here that can be appreciated from any perspective. Some people aren't going to get it, but I don' t think that's the musicians' fault. I really don't. We can't fault them for doing something that they believe in, for creating challenging art because that's what their lives and their experience lead them to do.

Oh, and in the interest of full disclosure (in case you didn't read the last entry), Peter Breslin was a teacher of mine in college. Great guy. Hang out and talk to him someday if you have the chance, or just go read his blog at

BettySoo-Little Tiny Secrets

Betty is also someone I know, someone that KC and I have gotten to know a bit through the folk scene recently. She's a singer-songwriter from Austin. She has a gorgeous voice, something that cannot be said of every folky chanteuse KC and I have heard over the last few years. I like this record, even though there are some songs I enjoy a lot more than others. "The Story of Us", "If You Fall", "Easy Living" and "Goodbye" are all ones I enjoy, and I think I enjoy them more now that I've heard Betty play them live. "Revival", however, is easily my favorite song on the record, largely for reasons that I would describe as spiritual. Being someone who calls himself "Christian", but is largely disappointed with the way that some other Christians conduct themselves in the larger world, this song gives me hope. It is what I believe the Church should be, the way its people should be conducting themselves, the actions that should be taken in the name of Christ versus the ones that are. I have not spoken with Betty about faith or this song in particular, so I don't know for sure how she was feeling or what she was thinking when she wrote it, but it always makes me feel less lonely when I realize there are others out there who might look at the Church the same way I do at this point in history.

BettySoo is also not afraid to write a catchy song, and this should be something that is celebrated in the folk world a lot more than it is. I look forward to enjoying more of her music in the future.

Okay, that's all I got. I wanted to add two more records to this report, but I'm really tired and I haven't had the chance to really give them the attention they deserve. Even these records here have been shortchanged to some degree. We'll have to revamp the plan a bit, maybe...We'll see. Keep listening.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Pop Music Will Eat You Alive

So I am currently in the process of downloading some completely improvised duets that a teacher of mine from college, Peter Breslin, did in Santa Fe last year. I’m really excited to listen to them (I will write about them as a “record” in this week’s record report, I think). I am also hoping to catch his radio show sometime soon, that is broadcast between 2-4 on Thursday afternoons Central time.

Why all this sudden interest in the avant-garde? Well, the truth is that it’s not sudden at all. It’s been there for years, since college. Some years it has lain completely dormant; as I awaken to the possibility of doing music full time, I also re-awaken to the possibilities of MUSIC. There are many, and I ignore most of them most of the time, shamefully. Weird Files has been an attempt to acknowledge the world outside “pop” music, or “rock & roll”, or whatever you want to call it. At the very least, it acknowledges the fringe of rock, where these so-called “avant-garde” tendencies and ideas creep in. Of course, the response in Oklahoma has been negligible, if that. Weird Files is a project that I don’t even know if I’m happy with, currently. The practicality of putting together the proper live ensembles to perform the pieces as written is nil, so I’m stuck doing this one-man-band, laptop thing, and at that point the parameters start to become unclear. Where is the line between performance of a piece of music and just spinning a recording of it? Where is the line between DJ and musician? When is a DJ a musician and when is he/she not? These are all lines that get blurrier and blurrier as time goes on. Check out the article on Diplo in the latest Paste magazine if you have any doubts.

So, yes, pop music WILL eat you alive. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the “pop” music world and ignore much of the rest, for good and bad reasons. The good reason is that there IS challenging music within the “rock” world (Trans Am, Sonic Youth, The Residents are just a few examples of ones I’ve been listening to lately…I’ll be writing about all of them here soon), the bad reason is that there are so many people doing amazing things out there on a small scale that are worth paying attention to, and those things are not marketed through many of the same channels as rock, and so if you’re only going to certain sources for your information on things, you miss out.

P.S. Yeah, I know. This entry isn't so much about records or mixtapes. Oh well. Music is music. That's what we're talking about here.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Clam Snout

So, the most recent mixtape that I made was just one for myself, with some jams on it I have been enjoying recently. For some reason, I decided to title it "Clam Snout", which I suppose follows in my long standing tradition of giving mixtapes really random and bizarre names ("Flying Tree No. 6", "Snert", "Slimy (Oh Yeah)", etc.). Here's the track list:

Side 1

Side 2

"Shadows of the Night" was a song I remembered hearing maybe only once or twice in my childhood, and when I heard it for the first time since then and realized I remembered it in a frighteningly accurate manner, I decided I should just download it from iTunes and rock out. It's lost a little bit of luster for me since then, but I am intrigued by the "arena rock" sound that it has; most of Pat Benatar's other hits don't really have that vibe.
"Strangers" is probably my favorite Kinks song right now...I am on an ongoing journey with the Kinks, getting closer to them every day. I still do not have the passion for them that many have, and I have hope that I'll arrive there at some point. This song is, of course, a Dave Davies composition, not a Ray Davies one, but I don't think it can really be denied how fantastic a song it is. Used to great effect in "The Darjeeling Limited" as well.
"The Stallion, Pt. 5" may be my favorite of all Ween's "Stallion" series. It certainly rocks the hardest. If you can find a copy of their "All Request Live" CD, that's the place to get it.
"Weird Little Boy"...I discovered these guys doing reviews on This wasn't the song I reviewed...I found this song after my review was done and I went to their page. This song is so brilliant to me...probably because it is absolutely ludicrous. The lyrics are juvenile, but the vocal delivery is eerily awesome. Anyone who's willing to use the word "spaz" in a song is alright by me.
"White Horse" is the quintessential electro jam of the 80's. Period. I've heard that Juicyfruit Jenkins got a lot of inspiration just from this one song. "Bitch". More songs should have that one word sung by itself in a low-pitched voice, because it's hilarious.
"Layin' It On the Line" is from "Nuclear Furniture", the finest Jefferson Starship album of the Mickey Thomas era. It was the last one before they became simply Starship, and has been a favorite record of mine since childhood. Is it a record that is appreciated on a large scale in the music community? No, of course not, but it is a fascinating listen. Not only does it have these Mickey Thomas/Craig Chaquico butt-rock style jams on it, but Paul Kantner was still trying to do some quasi-sci-fi stuff and "make a statement" at the same time. Find a used vinyl copy somewhere and treat yourself.
"Troubled Times"...If you're in a relationship that has been successful and continues to be so, listen to this song and be thankful that it's not about you. Works for me every time.
"Big Jilm"...This version kicks serious ass. See, here's where this gets challenging. I so badly want you to seek out THIS version of this song and find out why it's so awesome. I fear that's the only way you'll understand. Some musical experiences cannot be put into words.
"Shut Em Down" is my favorite Public Enemy song. Hands down. I know, it's not from either one of their true CLASSIC albums ("Nation Of Millions", "Fear Of a Black Planet"), but it is so slammin'. I can't recall off the top of my head who did the production for this track, but it shares all the good qualities of the best industrial music; heavy beat, vaguely machine-like sounds, great scratching, all with Chuck D dropping some serious shit on top. Hell yes.
"Tour De France" was a song I heard during childhood as well, except the version I heard was credited to 10 Speed. This is another example of the kind of randomness that I'm incredibly entertained by. I love the way he says "tour de France, tour de France", I love the silly synth riff and the fake slap-bass sound. I love the cheesy bicycle sound effects...
"The Mesopotamians" is my favorite jam from the newest TMBG album. It's in the upper echelon of their canon, for sure. It reminds me of when Dr. Pants were on Buzz Born & Bred (a radio show here in OKC), and I was talking about our "fake" story of where our name came from (that Dr. Pants was the name of an ancient scientist who studied the effects of rock on the human brain). I commented that there wasn't rock & roll in ancient times, and Lacey, the host, said, "That we KNOW of!"
"Someone Keeps Moving My Chair"...Okay, so I totally broke a mixtape rule and opened side 2 with the same band that ended side 1. I don't do it often. I just couldn't find a way around it this time. This song is definitely in a renaissance with me. It wasn't really ever one of my favorites from "Flood" until recently. I think the melody (and the way the words rest in it) is so incredible, especially the last part of the verse form ("would it be okay with you if we wrote a reminder..."). Oh my weasel! Who writes melodic phrases like that? There's a genius there that is rare, indeed.
"Under Pressure" is still the jam. The form is fantastic. There's not really a clear-cut verse or chorus. The bass part is really the only real hook, and yet it's still poppy, still catchy, still freakin' awesome. Sheesh.
"Transdermal Celebration"...The best song from "Quebec", Ween's misfire from back in 2003 or so. The guitar solo is soooo dope. Especially the last phrase. I convulse with pleasure every time I hear it.
"I Am The Walrus"...The Dead Milkmen are one of the most under-appreciated bands of ALL TIME (see, that's the kind of statement that obviously discredits any claim of objectivity). They wrote twisted, hilarious, groovy, rockin' songs and utterly failed to be commercial in any way. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when they came up with some of this stuff...What on earth were they thinking? It makes me think of Ira Glass talking about "Meet James Ensor" in the They Might Be Giants documentary: "It shouldn't even BE a song."
"Starman"...I am finally catching on to "Ziggy Stardust", the album. Took a while. This is certainly enough to make anyone take a second look. What a gorgeous melody.
"The Enemy" has been one of my favorite songs for a while. It's a good one to listen to right before a gig to get psyched up. I have already made a couple of pretty blatant attempts at duplicating the effect that the outro section is one of the most rocking moments ever captured on record.
"Afternight"..."TA" wasn't their best album, but this is definitely the best track on it. Trans Am continue to fascinate after all these years.
"Livin' On a Prayer"...Don't front like you don't like this song. It's so awesome. I would have never guessed ten years ago that I would consider this and "Wanted Dead or Alive" to be classic songs, but they are.
"Shining In The Moonlight" is another selection from "Nuclear Furniture". One of my earliest air guitar experiences.
"Talking In Your Sleep"...I almost wish that "What I Like About You" wasn't by the Romantics, just so that this song could get its due as the masterpiece that it is. Jangle-pop didn't ever sound this sinister or dark ever again. The arranging is just brilliant.
"I Saw Her Standing There" is quite simply one of the greatest, straight-ahead rock & roll songs of all time. Paul's vocal performance on this song IS rock & roll.
"Your Party" is the most brilliant Ween song in recent memory. You can picture every image he's one of those songs that totally embodies what the band is about. When you listen to this song, you gain an understanding of what it is that Ween does.

Whoo...That was a lot longer and more involved than I anticipated. We'll see if these entries get any briefer.

Introduction/What is this crap?

The description above should give you some idea about what's going on here, but here are some thoughts on what to expect...

I have a large music collection, and I currently own a lot of music that I feel like I don't know very well.  I feel as though having a blog like this will encourage me to actively listen more often.  

This is NOT rock criticism.  Rock criticism purports to be objective on some level (even though no one, in my opinion, gets into rock criticism to report facts or write objectively--one gets into it to foist one's opinion on an unsuspecting world), and this blog will not be objective at all.  I think there may not actually be any such thing as objectivity, at least in our broken, human world.  How can one person, who is an individual, and usually subject to what they're writing about at least to some degree, ever achieve true objectivity?  I know, I know...I am pretty much tearing apart every artistic/literary criticism world in existence, but hey.

I am not going to give the reader any information on an artist that I don't feel like going into at the time.  If I don't give you the background you desire on someone you want to know more about, too bad.  That's what AllMusic is for.  

If I am expounding on a record made by someone I know personally, I will tell you--that way you know that objectivity, whatever that is, is even less likely.

Like anything I do that has anything to do with music, I created this blog to please myself first. This isn't to say I don't want you to read it.  I really do.  If you find it informative or entertaining, even better, but the aim is just to make it into something I like or would be interested in reading.  This means that I'm not going to write about any record that I wasn't interested in enough to buy.  This is about me getting to know my own music collection--not passing judgment on stuff I don't care about.  

My goal is as follows: to post my thoughts/opinions/whatever in regards to about 5 records a week.  "Record" means full album, whether it's something I own on vinyl or in some sort of digital realm (and in a few VERY rare cases, cassette).  More than likely, I'll do it all in one post, towards the end of the week.  I may, at times, talk about a song that was a single, even if it appeared on an album or compilation later.  If I make a mixtape for someone or some reason, I'll post the track list and also talk about the selections.  Definition of "mixtape": I no longer make mixes on cassette.  No point.  Most people cannot/will not listen to anything in that format.  What I've starting doing is burning 2 CDs that are about 45 minutes a piece, each representing a "side" of a 90 minute cassette.  Instructions are given with these mixtapes to the recipient (listen to the sides in order, do NOT skip songs).  OCCASIONALLY, I may just make a boundless, less strict playlist (usually when I don't have time to adhere to my more strict policies), so I reserve the right to post a track list for a few modern abominations of that kind.  

I think that about covers it.  First mixtape post coming soon, first record report coming in around a week.  Enjoy.